Over the past week or so there has been a flurry of posts about ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ open access, including the following:
- Strong and weak OA, Peter Suber
- What’s in a Name? Strong and Weak Open Access, Glyn Moody
- The Two Forms of OA Have Been Defined: They Now Need Value-Neutral Names, Stevan Harnad
- Lower Bound Needed for Permission-Barrier-Free Open Access,
- Peter Suber on what is strongOA, Peter Murray-Rust
- Further discussion on strongOA and weakOA, Peter Murray-Rust
- How many forms of OA are there now?, Peter Murray-Rust
- Peter Suberâ€™s comments on strongOA/weakOA, Peter Murray-Rust
- Suber-Harnad strongOA/weakOA borderline, Peter Murray-Rust
- More clarification from Stevan Harnad, Peter Murray-Rust
Peter Suber and Stevan Harnad both agree:
The term “open access” is now widely used in at least two senses. For some, “OA” literature is digital, online, and free of charge. It removes price barriers but not permission barriers. For others, “OA” literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of unnecessary copyright and licensing restrictions. It removes both price barriers and permission barriers. It allows reuse rights which exceed fair use.
There are two good reasons why our central term became ambiguous. Most of our success stories deliver OA in the first sense, while the major public statements from Budapest, Bethesda, and Berlin (together, the BBB definition of OA) describe OA in the second sense.
As you know, Stevan Harnad and I have differed about which sense of the term to prefer –he favoring the first and I the second. What you may not know is that he and I agree on nearly all questions of substance and strategy, and that these differences were mostly about the label. While it may seem that we were at an impasse about the label, we have in fact agreed on a solution which may please everyone. At least it pleases us.
We have agreed to use the term “weak OA” for the removal of price barriers alone and “strong OA” for the removal of both price and permission barriers. To me, the new terms are a distinct improvement upon the previous state of ambiguity because they label one of those species weak and the other strong. To Stevan, the new terms are an improvement because they make clear that weak OA is still a kind of OA.
On this new terminology, the BBB definition describes one kind of strong OA. A typical funder or university mandate provides weak OA. Many OA journals provide strong OA, but many others provide weak OA.
Furthermore, Peter Suber adds:
As soon as we move beyond the removal of price barriers to the removal of permission barriers, we enter the range of strong OA. Hence, an article with a CC-NC license is strong OA because it allows some copying and redistribution beyond fair use (even if it doesnâ€™t allow all copying and redistribution). My own preference is still for the CC-BY license, but we shouldnâ€™t speak as if CC-NC were not strong OA or as if there were just one kind of strong OA.
According to this schema, a cost free publication counts as weak open access, and a publication licensed under a CC-NC license counts as strong open access. Stevan Harnad agrees with the distinction but suggests the need for ‘value-neutral’ terms to describe it – suggesting ‘basic’ and ‘full’.
Its worth adding to this discussion that there is also Open Definition compliant open access, which I understand is equivalent to BBB open access and which is more permissive than ‘strong’ or ‘full’ open access. As we blogged a couple of weeks back – anything with the SPARC Europe Seal will be open access in this sense.
As Peter Murray-Rust comments:
Open Source has the OSI which determines whether ot not a given licence is OS. Open Knowledge after only a short time of volunteers has the OKF and has an agreed definition and a list of conformant licences.
Scholarly publications, as literary works, constitute knowledge and hence are covered by the OKD. A journal, monograph or any other publication can still be ‘open as in the OKD’ as with other forms of knowledge. Debates about open access aside, demarcating between knowledge that is ‘open’ and ‘closed’ is precisely what the OKD is there for!
It will be interesting to see what emerges as the new classificatory scheme for open access, and where OKD compliant publications sit on the spectrum. Perhaps these will be called ‘OKD/BBB compliant open access’ journals, or suchlike.
Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at jonathangray.org and he tweets at @jwyg.